We’re back from a great week in Nottingham. (Actually we’re back for a while, but try to tell clients that you have to write a blog post.) Thanks to Simon Collison for organizing a nice event.
The Bowling Event
While the event itself was nice, bowling wasn’t that communicative and people on individual lanes didn’t mix much, so we had barely a chance to speak to people we didn’t know previously. Also it was hard to know what the score was on all lanes.
New Adventures was a great experience that started with a small 30min delay because it was very hard to get all attendees into the Albert Hall. The talks were very inspirational and delivered to the spot. It all began with Dan Rubin (@danrubin), who made a great point in creating a new language for the web. What is the point in speaking about a “page” in Web Design when there isn’t anything like that in the web. It is time that the business grows up and invents its own terms or at least borrows them from disciplines that are not related to our profession, like “Responsive Web Design” (from architecture) did.
“A New Canon” was the title of Mark Boulton’s (@markboulton) talk, and he delivered a great point: Working with the tools of yesterday will not work, you have to think from the structure and from the content and built your website around the content, not inserting the content into a design that was built around dummy text.
Sarah Parmenter (@sazzy) adds another insight about user experience – she spoke about the perception of products and how they are they’re promoted. A popular example she used was “The Pepsi Challenge”, a series of TV spots where people tasted Coke and Pepsi without seeing the artwork and said Pepsi is more tasty than Coke. In 9 years of campaign, Pepsi closed the gap to Coke from 14% to 1%. Speed, simplicity and surprise play an important role in engaging users with the product or service.
After the short break, Elliot Jay Stocks (@elliotjaystocks), talked about how designing 8faces influenced his view of web design. Especially he is tired of the web 2.0 look: All those useless reflections, gradients and shadows. He even showed that text shadow can have the opposite outcome, depending on the background color. So you have to put a decent amount of thought into your designs, as there are no copy & paste answers.
The morning closed with Jon Tan’s (@jontangerine) excellent remarks about neuro-science and web design. The goal is to stimulate the lizard brain with web design, to trigger emotions and to “feel” the website.
After lunch, the morning speakers gathered to answer a few questions. I’m personally not a huge fan of discussion panels and both that day made me think that I’m right. While there were a few interesting questions, it was nothing where a classic Q&A section after the talks wouldn’t be enough.
Then Tim Van Damme (@maxvoltar) spoke about the important foundations of our day-to-day work. It was not only a talk about good web techniques (like not using flash) but even about business implication if you’re a freelancer or a small agency. He proposed to make lists of what went good and bad in a project.
The #naconf Paper:
This event was so well crafted, it still amazes us. One of the greatest things was the goodie bag which even contained a print magazine, designed and written (almost) only for the conference attendees. If you weren’t at New Adventures, you can get one via the website. It is inexpensive and a great source for inspiration.
Greg Wood (@gregwood) showed some statistics about how art directed articles are better received. He showed two examples, a T-Rex article and a receipt, to his guinea pigs. Half of them got the article styled, the other one unstyled. He found out that the art directed article was much more likely to be read.
Up next was Veerle Pieters (@vpieters), who talked about inspiration. We’ve anticipated some more hands on inspirational techniques, but the talked lacked information about things like mood boards. Her approach is just playing with visual details until she gets an idea that fits the project exactly. As someone who is rarely struck by inspiration this wasn’t really helpful.
Andy Clarke (@Malarkey), Brendan Dawes (@brendandawes) and another Q&A session concluded the day. Andy spoke about the dynamic of comics, looking on how the size and position of panels influences how you read the individual panel and the whole page. Look at „Understanding Comics“ by Scott McCloud (@scottmccloud) for even more input on that topic. Storytelling on web sites is still a very young phenomenon, and, as Andy said: Detectives are so 2010.
Brendan really surprised us with the most excited and energetic talk of them all, talking about product usability. It was clear that he really enjoys the topic, being a product designer himself producing MoviePeg. Brendan is a pencil addict, too. And he owns the best pencil sharpener in the world (which isn’t cat shaped).
Photos: Simon Collison by @stn1978, Elliot Jay Stocks & Andy Clarke by @natecroft, Brendan Dawes by @trilodge
We were invited to the Escucha, which is a nice place, to celebrate the event. Sadly the music was never in an acceptable volume range, so talking to others got extreme hard. That was even enforced by our tiredness, as we just arrived the other day. At least we got this great photo with @Colly, who I’d love to have talked to that evening — but I guess his voice was gone at that time anyway.
This concludes out blog article about #naconf, we’ll be back next year. Stay tuned for another article about the Nottingham places of interest and Sherwood Forrest.